Cultural tips: India

Do’s and Don’ts when doing Business with India

  • Show some knowledge of India’s glorious past. Learn the basic facts of the history of the area- admire its magnificence, landscapes, art and architecture.
  • Treat them with great respect. Their culture is 4000 years old. Be culturally sensitive; remember Indian values are very different from your own.
  • Learn something about the basic tenets of Hinduism. Know all the basic facts about Mahatma Gandhi and avoid confusing him with Indira and Rajiv Gandhi to which he is not related.
  • Older people must be treated with great deference and respect.
  • Make yourself familiar with Indian family arrangements. Brothers and sons generally live under one roof. This results in fragmentation of land.
  • Make yourself familiar with the respective positions of men and women and the system of arranged marriages. Women show deference to men. Hinduism dominates their social behavior with the relevant taboos.
  • Dress is opulent, often ostentatious.
  • Be very clear about the geography of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Remember also that there are Indians who are Muslims.
  • Avoid ideology once the discussion is clearly Business.
  • Look at things from their point of view: you can learn a lot from them.
  • When negotiating: remember they are very skillful, understand their needs and objectives, be humble at all times, and avoid sarcasm or irony.
  • Focus on relations; they see this as more important than any specific deal
  • Like the Indians are, one should be reasonable, solicitous and flexible. Indians emanate and expect warmth, courtesy, respect and properness. Do not appear too coldly factual.
  • Develop a tolerance for ambiguity – it is common in India. Truth, facts and appearances are often subject to negotiation.
  • Their negotiation concept is win-lose, but they are very flexible. Indians will accept ‘losses’ if they mean future gains.
  • Show sympathy and empathy whenever you see the other side in difficulties. Share gains and losses equitably, irrespective of contractual agreements.
  • Though highly collectivist in the local group, they develop individuality and brilliance when dealing on their own with outsiders. They are clever at buying and selling.
  • Recognize the importance of the unwritten word. Oral agreements are weightier than documents.
  • The Indian is disappointed if you do not engage in bargaining with him. Determination of price must come last, after all the benefits of the purchase or deal have been elaborated. Indians use all their communicative skills to get to the price indirectly.
  • Be patient. Do not try to be forceful in short-circuiting the decision-making process.
  • Communicate clearly and often. Indians like follow-up.
  • Accept that there is much chaos and remember that they manage it better than you do.
  • Use their knowledge to work together to develop the Indian market.
  • Learn to cope with bureaucracy, which can be slow and tedious. Learn to function within constraints and restrictions.
  • Maintain multiple channels of communication, with government and commercial entities.
  • Remember truth has many aspects – most Indians consider there is no absolute truth.
  • Operate within the context of a medium to longer term horizon.

Source: CultureActive by Richard D. Lewis


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